The Gospel according to Luke (1:26-38)
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said,“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Reflection: The Feast of the Annunciation is the reason why we celebrate Christmas on December 25. Christmas comes exactly nine months after the Archangel Gabriel invited the Virgin Mary to be the Mother of God, an event we commemorate on March 25.
God could have become man in any number of creative ways. He could have incarnated Himself just as Adam was incarnated in the book of Genesis, by being formed from the clay and having the divine breath blown into his nostrils. Or maybe God could have taken flesh in an unknown way and just been found, like Moses, floating in a basket by a childless young couple from Nazareth as they enjoyed a Sunday picnic along the Jordan River.
The Second Person of the Trinity chose, however, to become a man like we all become man. In the same way that He would exit the world through the door of death, as we all have to do, before His Resurrection and Ascension, He also entered the world through the door of human birth. In the words of the early Church, Christ could not redeem what He did not assume. He redeemed everything because He took on human nature in all of its breadth, depth, complexity and mystery. He was like us in all things except sin.
The incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity was a “self emptying” event. It was God choosing to become small. Imagine a man becoming an ant, while retaining his human mind and will. The man-turned-ant would appear to be like all the ants around him, and would participate in all of their ant activities, yet still think at a level far above them. There was no other way to do it. The man had to learn through becoming, not because insect life was superior to his own, but precisely because it was inferior.
The Second Person of the Trinity retained His infused divine knowledge while reducing Himself to a man and learning man life, doing man work, and dying a man death. By such a self emptying, He dignified all men and opened to them the possibility of entering into His higher life in Heaven.
The Church’s theological tradition speculates that one of the reasons the bad angels may have rebelled against God was envy. They may have discovered that God chose to become man, instead of the higher form of an angel. This envy would have been directed at the Virgin Mary as well, that Vessel of Honor and Ark of the Covenant who bore the divine choice. God not only became man, and did so through a human being, one prepared from her conception to be perfect. March 25 is one of only two days of the year when we kneel at the recitation of the Creed at Mass. At the words “…by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man” all heads bow and all knees bend at the wonder of it. If the story of Christ is the greatest story ever told, today is its first page.
Action of the Day: Today we should take some time to reflect we are so loved that God Himself sent Jesus to show us the way to eternal life in heaven. We should look for a way to share that blessing and simply remember to pass on the blessing to others.